A community-based participatory approach is adopted to generate a sense of community involvement based on older adult’s perception. Environmental psychology and the concepts of user’s perception and cognition, as well as user’s evaluation of the environment, are applied in this investigation with the aim of understanding the short and long term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the wellbeing of older adults in Brazil. Until 2019, Brazil promoted healthy and active ageing through different institutional and private actions. The results of the PlaceAge Project in Brazil identified the importance of several support groups for older adults led by churches, community groups and public institutions, such as CRAS (Reference Centre for Social Assistance). These groups organized activities in community centres and public spaces, such as gymnastics, craft classes, cooking and volunteer activities. However, with the arrival of the pandemic on 11th March 2020 in the world and in Brazil, all these collective activities were suspended and older adults, especially the most vulnerable, were left without the support of the community. The measures of social isolation, extremely important to control the spread of the virus, promoted situations of isolation, which need to be studied based on the perception of the affected groups. Therefore, the development of the Project’s methodology is based on the premise that quantitative and qualitative participatory methods are fundamental to achieve the objectives of this investigation.
The project includes three linked Work Packages. During the execution of the research, we will be monitoring the measures adopted by local and national governments of social distance. The methods are designed to be applied remotely due to the pandemic. Health protocols are respected throughout the process to ensure the safety of researchers and participants.
Work Package 1 – Knowing Social Well-Being (2021): In its first year, the project applies the following quantitative and qualitative methods to meet the objectives of the study – questionnaires, photo diaries and semi-structured interviews. It seeks to identify the opportunities and barriers that the city, the community and housing offer to older adults in carrying out their daily activities during the pandemic, including the challenges to achieve physical and mental wellbeing. These methods explore how older adults negotiate access to urban spaces, health and wellbeing services, social neighbourhood networks, social connectivity, housing and home experiences, negotiate mobility and transportation, and access forms of social participation and civic engagement during the pandemic.
The questionnaires and photo diaries sample consists of residents in cities of any region of Brazil, being composed of different age groups (50 to 60; 61 to 70; 71 to 80; 81 years or more), stratified by sex, domestic types (for example, living alone, families, couples) and mobility (low to severe difficulties in carrying out daily activities). At the end of each photo diary, an interview is conducted in order to understand the importance of the photos taken by participant and to get to know the image narrative, revealing aspects of social wellbeing within the context of the place.
For semi-structured interviews, we selected those who are responsible for administering support to older adults during COVID-19, including local and national government, NGOs, community organizations and local organizations, and bodies responsible for coordinating responses to COVID-19. The purpose of the interviews is to identify the actions that exist, or would need to exist, in Brazil to support the social wellbeing of older adults during COVID-19, in order to guarantee the physical, mental and social wellbeing of this group.
Work Package 2 – Geo-referencing Social Wellbeing (2022): In the second year of the Project, all data obtained in Work Package 1 are mapped on the ArcGis Online platform, so that the information is spatialized and connected to urban characteristics and social aspects of each region of Brazil.
Work Package 3 – Designing for Ageing-Friendly Communities (2023): In the last year of the Project, a concise set of information is developed, in the form of a Policy Brief, that can help public managers understand and make decisions about government policies aimed at resilient communities in the situation of pandemics and other humanitarian crises. Work Package 3 was developed to translate the findings of WP1 and WP2 into local and national guidelines and policies, urban practices and tools to support the physical, mental and social wellbeing of older people during and after a pandemic. This stage will involve one National Policy and Practice Forum (10 to 15 participants) with (i) urban public policy makers and professionals responsible for providing support to older adults; (ii) agencies or charities involved with older adults; (iii) voluntary and community organizations; and (iv) older adults and advocacy groups. The emphasis here is to discuss specific community and institutional responses to COVID-19, specifically in terms of how resilient communities can be planned to ensure the physical, mental and social wellbeing of elderly groups in this and future pandemics in Brazil. The results will produce a series of recommendations and guidelines on how public policy makers can offer support to older populations. The results constitute a toolkit, which includes guidelines and recommendations for public managers on how to implement interventions to support the wellbeing of older adults in various urban contexts during a pandemic.